RE: Howard's note

From: glenn morton (
Date: Thu Nov 09 2000 - 12:25:42 EST

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    Hi Howard,

    I want to address a couple of your comments so they will be waiting for you
    when you return.

    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: []On
    > Behalf Of Howard J. Van Till
    > Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2000 1:36 PM

    > 1. If the Bible is not uniform in its literary genre, and it
    > surely is not,
    > then why speak in terms of a "one method fits all" hermeneutical strategy?
    > [You know the line: "If narrative A in the OT is best understood as an
    > example of traditional 'storied theology,' then why not treat all
    > narratives
    > in the NT in exactly the same way?"] Are we not warranted in
    > treating each
    > portion of the text on its own literary and historical terms?
    > Would it even
    > be responsible for us to do anything less?

    Howard, at the very least we need a clear set of guidelines that can
    distinquish the literary types. I don't see that in hermeneutics as it is
    practiced. Genesis 6-11 appear to be written in the same style as Gen. 12,
    but there is a tendency to place it as less historical than 12, I think
    because of the content not because of the literary style. So from my point
    of view, I think people are chosing where to place this particular piece of
    literature based upon scientific not hermeneutical literary based rules.
    Thus it becomes a big game based upon subjectivism.

    > 3. Why not consider the possibility that Christians could benefit from a
    > respectful reading of the religious texts of other faiths? Do we really
    > think that all other faith communities have been totally denied
    > an authentic
    > experience of God's presence? Has God abandoned everyone but us
    > Christians?

    One this point, I want to clearly emphasize that it is because I have read
    the documents of many other religions that I have the questions I do. And I
    completely agree with you that Christians would benefit from reading other
    religious texts. But that is irrelevant to the question "Which, if any, of
    the texts is representative of the true religion?' They can't all be true
    because they are mutually exclusive in their claims. So only by embracing
    irrationallity can we claim that all are true.

    All could be false of course, but if there is one that is true, then it must
    have something that sets it apart--something objective, not subjective. Our
    feelings towards its theology is a lousy reason to make one choice or

    As to what I personally have read, I have read the Koran, the Book of
    Mormon, parts of the Hindu literature(I don't know anyone who has read it
    all), Bahai documents (I forgot the title), and having done the
    anthropological study that I have I have learned of the traditions and
    beliefs of many primitive tribes in Africa, Australia, the Americas and New
    Guinea(whose claims should not be dismissed merely because they are
    primitive and less widely known). So, it is because I respect the various
    beliefs that I have read that it raises the questions I have. Indeed even to
    raise the questions I am raising means I respect them enough to give
    credence to the possibility that they are true. If I didn't respect them, I
    would ignore them like most Christians do. Or simply answer as some do, 'Our
    theology is so much better' without giving any reasons for that statement.

    Now, one of the things that always gets my goat when I am receiving answers
    for these questions is that conservative christians always answer from the
    assumption that they KNOW their religion is true but at the same time
    display little evidence of actually having read or studied other religions.
    It is one thing to feel that our theology is superior to everyone else,
    unless one can provide some objective standard upon which to base such a
    claim, the claim remains subjective nonsense.

    > 4. We have every right to compare the relative merits of various sacred
    > texts, and every right to choose the Bible as our own source of
    > inspiration
    > and guidance, but do we have any right to presume that all other revered
    > texts are worthless and totally without inspiration by the Spirit of God?

    One must always understand that some of the documents were probably written
    so that someone could have an ego trip of starting a new religion. L. Ron
    Hubbards, Scientology and Smith's Mormonism comes to my mind here. One must
    also entertain the possibility that the author truly beleived what he wrote
    or taught, but that he was sorely mistaken. One can't simply and naively
    say 'Golly it's a religious document, it must have some input from God."
    That would be silly. Yet that is what is done sometimes on the liberal side
    of the fence.

    > And when I suggest a "respect" for other texts I am NOT at all
    > suggesting an
    > uncritical acceptance of what they say. If I have called for a critical
    > reading (use all of your resources for sound interpretation,
    > evaluation and
    > application) of the biblical text, I would expect at least that much
    > application of critical skills when reading other texts.

    But unless we can agree on a consistent way of deciding which text is meant
    to be history (this is apart from the question of whether or not it is
    history), then we have no means of objectively deciding upon which critical
    hermeneutical skills to apply. Once again, the style of Genesis 5-11 appear
    much more historically written and thus if one wants to relegate them to
    other types of literature, one must present a convincing objective case that
    differentiates them from Genesis 12 on.

    With respect and wishes for your recovery.


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